People with narcissistic personalities may seem to love themselves, but a new study has suggested they may be actually hiding their deep feelings of inferiority.
According to the new research, people who are narcissistic are likely to tell psychologists that they feel good about themselves.
But when the psychologists trick these narcissists into thinking they're hooked up to a working lie-detector test, the truth comes out and the narcissists admit to lower self-esteem.
"This suggests that individuals with high levels of narcissism may be inflating their self-esteem," study researcher Erin Myers, a psychologist at Western Carolina University, told Live Science.
"In other words, narcissistic individuals may not really believe they are as great as they claim to be," she sated.
People who are higher in the narcissistic trait profess to a grandiose self-appreciation, but studies had turned up mixed results as to whether these positive feelings are genuine or a facade.
To find out, Myers and her colleagues recruited 71 undergraduate women from the University of Southern Mississippi and asked them to rate their self-esteem and narcissism after they were told that they'd been hooked up to lie-detector equipment.
The results revealed an interesting schism: For women who scored low in narcissism, being "monitored" by the lie detector made no difference in their reported self-esteem.
But women with high narcissism reported more love of themselves when they thought the lie-detecting machine was off.
When they believed that the researchers knew if they were telling the truth, their self-esteem responses were significantly lower.
The findings suggest that narcissists are covering for a deep-seated sense of inferiority, Myers said, though the researchers aren't yet sure whether this facade is for themselves or for the benefit of others.
"Narcissists may be trying to bolster their own feelings of self-worth by claiming to like themselves. Another possibility is that narcissists may be trying to influence the way that others perceive them. It may also be some combination of both," she added.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Research in Personality.